Group Guide: Handbook for SAA Groups

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1 Group Guide: Handbook for SAA Groups Literature Committee approved May 2010

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3 Seventh Edition May 2010 The International Service Organization of SAA holds Sixth Edition copyright. Unless noted on a given page that it may be copied for use in SAA groups, permission to copy or reproduce this material in any form should be obtained by writing the publisher.

4 Table of Contents Introduction...1 Starting a Group...2 Starting a Group...3 Twelfth-Stepping New Members...7 Types of Meetings...8 Meeting Format and Readings...9 Meetings...10 Optional SAA Meeting Agenda...12 Optional SAA Meeting Agenda...15 Opening...16 Who We Are...16 What Is Sex Addicts Anonymous?...17 Moment of Silence/Serenity Prayer...17 Our Addiction...18 Our Program...18 The Twelve Steps of Sex Addicts Anonymous...19 The Twelve Traditions of Sex Addicts Anonymous...20 Abstinence in SAA...21 Meeting Boundaries...22 Phone List...23 Seventh Tradition...23 Intro to Discussion / Sharing...24 How We Live...24 Closing...25 Newcomers Introduction...25 Service...26 Roles and Responsibilities of Group Trusted Servants...27 What Is a Group Conscience?...28 Conflict within a Group...29 What Is a Home Group?...30 Taking a Group Inventory...30 Service Work Step Twelve in Action...32 What Is an Intergroup?...35 Intergroup Representation...36 Conducting Group Business...36 The Role of the Treasurer in an SAA Group...38 LifeLine Partners...43 Resources for Meetings...44 Literature in Meetings...45 Guidelines for Prayers...47 Fellowship...48 International Service Organization...49 Identifying Leaders for International Service Work...51 Meeting Registration with the SAA International Service Organization (ISO)...52 How to Contact SAA...57 i.

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6 Introduction A Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) group can be defined as two or more addicts meeting together regularly for the purposes of recovering from their sexual addiction and reaching out to others suffering from sexual addiction, who are self-supporting and have no other common affiliations. Tradition One of SAA reminds us that: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon SAA unity. We practice unity when we start and maintain an SAA group, reaching out to others in need of recovery. Tradition Five of SAA states: Each group has but one primary purpose to carry its message to the sex addict who still suffers. We carry this message when we work the Twelve Steps of SAA, observe the Twelve Traditions, and share our experience, strength, and hope with other addicts. This guide is designed to give groups the basic materials and tools needed to begin and nurture an SAA meeting. It is arranged in four sections: Starting a Group, Meeting Format and Readings, Service, and Resources for Meetings. Think of this guide as a buffet table of possible readings and meeting formats that could be adopted by an autonomous group. While it is suggested that the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of SAA be read at every meeting, as they form the basis of our recovery, many other readings and practices may supplement them. The members of each meeting are free to select the readings and practices they feel will benefit them the most. No matter what your group s size or level of experience, we hope that you find this guide helpful as your group moves forward in its recovery journey. Page 1

7 Starting a Group Page 2

8 Starting a Group What is an SAA group? A Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) group consists of two or more addicts who using the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of SAA meet together regularly for the purpose of recovering from their addictive sexual behavior. An SAA group is selfsupporting, and is not affiliated with any other organization. An SAA member group is an SAA group that has registered itself with the International Service Organization of SAA, and follows the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of SAA. An SAA meeting occurs when individuals come together at a specified time and location. An SAA meeting is a safe place. It is a gathering of equals who keep confidences, refrain from judgment, and support one another through sharing their experience, strength, and hope. Why start an SAA group? There are a number of reasons for forming a new SAA group. A partial list follows: There is no group in a given area. Members of an existing group wish to meet more frequently or at a different time or location. Members of an existing group wish to start a new group with a specific focus, such as a meeting for women only, a meeting for men only, a Spanish-speaking meeting, a meeting for counseling professionals, or a meeting for addicts who are sex offenders. Members of an existing group feel unable to adhere to the group conscience of the existing group, so rather than force a change, they start a new group. Then each group can have a unified group conscience. How to start an SAA group There is no perfect way to start an SAA group. Here are some suggestions that many have found useful in starting groups. 1. Attend an SAA meeting We recommend that those who are unfamiliar with SAA or twelve-step recovery first attend an existing SAA meeting before attempting to start a new group. In addition, we suggest that members develop a firm basis in recovery before starting a new meeting, even if it means traveling an hour or more to attend an established meeting. SAA Page 3

9 telemeetings and online meetings are also available if there are no face-to-face meetings in your area. Contact the ISO office to find out about meetings in your area or region. 2. Find other people who want to meet To start a meeting, we need to have other people. Our recovery depends on other recovering sex addicts. Our experience has shown that if we can not find others locally to meet with, it is better to be part of another group, no matter how far we have to go (or how much conflict we have with others in that group). For example, one group got started when a person regularly drove five hours to a meeting in another city. When a second person started traveling with that person, they realized they had enough people to start a local group. A group needs a minimum of two people. But because over time, people leave a group, it helps to start with more than two people. One area reported that most new groups in their area would lose half the people the first month. Many new groups struggle for at least the first year. It may help to ask for a six-month commitment from those who agree to be part of starting the group. (But do not be surprised when some do not fulfill that commitment.) Some suggestions for finding other people to start a group with include: Announce the desire to start a new meeting at the meetings you attend. Ask the local intergroup to help spread the word. Offer yourself as a resource to local therapists or clergy; allow them to give out your contact information to those they counsel who need or want a meeting. Contact the ISO to see if they can connect you with other people in your area wanting to find or start a meeting. 3. Find a location When starting a meeting, one of your first tasks will be to find a meeting place. Initially, if you are meeting with people you have never met, you may want to meet in a quiet, neutral, safe public place, such as a coffee shop. To take root and grow, however, a meeting needs a regular meeting time and place. Identify churches, social service organizations, AA/NA clubhouses, neighborhood community centers, colleges, or hospitals that have a reputation for reaching out to the community. Places where other twelve-step or self-help groups meet are likely to be more open to hosting an SAA meeting. Churches are a common meeting location simply because they often have empty rooms during the week and often charge very low rent. Other venues such as twelve-step clubs, treatment centers, counselors offices, or hospitals may also be available. This is not a complete list; be creative when considering possible locations in your area. We recommend contacting many different possible venues. The more calls you make, the Page 4

10 faster that special location will be found. Restaurants, coffee shops, parks, or members homes should be a last resort, but can be used temporarily until a permanent location can be found. Approach the facility you are interested in. The initial contact may be by phone or . If the reception seems favorable, we recommend making an appointment for two members to meet with a facility coordinator to discuss the details. You may choose to tell the person in charge that you are starting an SAA meeting, or you may simply say that you are forming a twelve-step support group. Some groups have found that it is better to be open about the nature of the group from the start so that there are no surprises for other users of the facility or unpleasant repercussions for the group members later. Find a place where you are comfortable with the reception you receive. Decide if and how your group will be identified on the facility s schedule. More and more groups are identifying themselves openly as Sex Addicts Anonymous; however, others may use names like Serenity Group, Shame to Grace Group, or Support Group. Use your group conscience to decide how your group wants to be identified. 4. Establish a way that your group can be contacted You will need a way to be contacted by people interested in your group. As soon as possible, we recommend establishing a P.O. Box or voic service in the name of the group rather than in the name of an individual. These services are generally inexpensive and help ensure that your group is available to newcomers. Operating the phone or P.O. Box on the group level protects individual members anonymity and is more reliable than using the address or phone of an individual who could leave the group. A group mailing address also gives the ISO a place to deliver the group s copy of the ISO newsletter and other literature, such as the annual Call to Convention, annual group registration reminders, and other helpful communications. If your group decides to use some type of voic system, remember to check it often. It can be very discouraging to potential new members if calls are not returned promptly. You might also consider obtaining a group cell phone that can be handed off between those members sharing responsibility for responding to calls from newcomers. 5. Get SAA literature Obtaining SAA literature is an important way to ground your group in the program and begin to focus on the Twelve Steps. Many find literature indispensable, especially in the early stages of recovery. For example, the SAA basic text, Sex Addicts Anonymous, is strongly recommended. Reading SAA literature helps members learn about the program and how it might work for us. Literature is also a direct link to the experience, strength, and hope of members of the fellowship outside of your group. A starter kit has been specifically designed for new meetings. It contains a wide variety of pamphlet literature that has proven helpful to new groups at a discounted price. The starter kit can be purchased from the ISO office. Page 5

11 If you cannot afford a starter kit, let the ISO office know, and they will try to send you one free of charge anyway. The Fifth Tradition states: Each group has but one primary purpose to carry its message to the sex addict who still suffers. As a fellowship, we are far more interested in seeing that a new group has the materials it needs than we are concerned about the cost of the starter kit. All they ask is that when the meeting is better established, that your group remember the ISO with your donations. 6. Register with the International Service Organization of SAA If you want the addict who still suffers to be able to find your group through referrals, register your group with the ISO office. A group registration form may be found at the back of this guide, with step-by-step instructions. Forms can also be downloaded from the SAA website in the Meetings area, or requested by calling the ISO office. A group registration form requires the signatures of two members in order to register the group. 7. Reach out to other addicts Your group may wish to contact local therapists or clergy in person, by phone, or through mailings, informing them of the existence of SAA and of your meeting times and locations. The ISO has free post cards designed especially for this purpose. Crisis counseling agencies in your local area may be able to refer people to the group on a cooperative basis. If other twelve-step fellowships exist in your area, consider networking with these groups to let them know that SAA is available. In addition, placing an ad in a local newspaper can be an effective outreach tool. Our experience suggests that we avoid publicizing our meeting times and locations in the newspaper. An ad that has proven successful simply states: Sex Addicts Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women recovering from addictive sexual behavior. For more information, call Network with other local SAA groups Once your group is established, we recommend linking up with other SAA groups in your area by joining or forming an intergroup. This will let other addicts in your area know about your meeting and helps to get the word out. (See the sections of the guide entitled What Is an Intergroup? and Intergroup Representation. ) Page 6

12 Twelfth-Stepping New Members Step Twelve asks us to carry this message to other sex addicts. Some groups choose to meet with prospective members individually before they attend their first meeting in order to carry the message of SAA directly to the newcomer. This initial meeting is called a twelfth-step call. In order to be twelfth-stepped, the newcomer contacts SAA locally either by phone or letter. The newcomer s first name and phone number are forwarded to a group. Ideally, two members of the group arrange to meet with the newcomer as soon as possible, at a mutually convenient time and place. The meeting or call is beneficial to all parties. It is essential for SAA members to do twelfth-step work because only by giving away our recovery are we able to keep it. The meeting also benefits the newcomer by providing a way for him or her to hear from two SAA members about their addiction: what it was like before they came to SAA, what happened when they hit bottom, and what it is like for them now. The newcomer has an opportunity to ask questions, get more information about the program, and share his or her story. If the newcomer chooses to join the group, the two members can accompany him or her to the first meeting. They may also serve as temporary sponsors. Some people may ask, Why can't I just come to the meeting? Some groups allow this. However, many find that the attention, care, and consideration of the twelfth-step call provide a valuable transition that eases the introduction to SAA. If someone new shows up at the meeting, some groups do what is known as a Group Twelfth Step. This is where the group will break from its regular meeting format for the benefit of the newcomer and ask individual members to share their stories. Some groups bring up the topic of the First Step or How we got here. On reflection, many newcomers have commented that this format helped them to realize that they are not alone with the problem of sex addiction and gave them a good introduction to how an SAA meeting operates. Page 7

13 Types of Meetings Many types of meetings have been developed by SAA group members to meet the needs of the addict who still suffers. Some of these types of meetings include: 1. Men only, Women only, or Mixed Meetings 2. Closed versus Open Meetings 3. Telemeetings 4. Online (Web) Meetings 5. Prison Meetings Men only, Women only, or Mixed Meetings: Most SAA meetings are mixed meetings, meaning that the meeting is open to all individuals, regardless of gender, who have a desire to stop addictive sexual behavior. Some meetings decide to segregate themselves by gender in order to make the meeting a safer place for their attendees to recover from addictive sexual behavior. Because of the nature of this addiction, some members only feel safe attending single-gender meetings. We respect this need. Closed versus Open Meetings: Closed meetings are open only to those individuals who have a desire to stop their addictive sexual behavior. Open meetings are open to anyone interested in finding out about SAA; those who attend need not have admitted that their sexual behavior is a problem. Telemeeting: An SAA meeting that is held via a telephone conference call. Online (Web) Meeting: An online SAA meeting that is held in real time over an Internet connection. Prison Meetings: An SAA meeting that is held in a jail, prison, or other adult correctional institution or facility. Page 8

14 Meeting Format and Readings Page 9

15 Meetings The First Tradition of SAA emphasizes that personal recovery depends upon SAA unity and the group meeting is the tangible expression of that unity. It is in the group that we learn to be honest with one another, to share our concerns, and to respond to the needs of others. It is through meeting together as a group of suffering and recovering addicts that we can find a spiritual solution to the problem of sexual addiction. Individuals respond to meetings in different ways. Some members don t talk much; they are content to listen, finding comfort in identifying with others. Some members talk a lot in order to effectively process their thoughts and feelings. We encourage all members to focus on the solution rather than the problem and to ask themselves how their sharing can benefit others. Meetings are not opportunities for preaching or establishing hierarchies. All members are equal and equally humble in their desire for recovery. There are many different formats for meetings. Some meetings center around step presentations, topic discussions, individual check-ins, delivery of First Steps, personal stories (speaker meetings), or readings from appropriate literature. No one format is better than another. Each group is autonomous and can decide by group conscience what is useful to its members. Experience has demonstrated the importance of keeping the meetings focused on the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and on the principles and tools of SAA recovery. For this reason, the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, and the Three Circles of SAA are always excellent meeting topics. A topic or step presentation can be prepared and presented by an individual or the meeting can be immediately opened to the group for discussion. Individuals may choose to share how a step has strengthened their recovery or how they struggle with applying the step in their lives. Many groups use the book Sex Addicts Anonymous and read sections of the basic text or the stories in their meetings. Reading this material together can be a good way to find a topic to discuss. In addition, many of the stories in the second section of the SAA book have themes that many members can relate to. Some groups study the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the original source of the Twelve Steps. Some groups devote the majority of the meeting to check-in time, during which members relate the events and feelings of the last week or since the last time they attended a meeting. These are moments of real communication when we reach out and come in touch with our brothers or sisters in recovery. The presence of the group helps break down our denial and overcome our fear of rejection. We find that we can share our most shameful secrets and receive acceptance, love, and support in return. This offers a cleansing and healing experience to everyone. Page 10

16 Careful attention is given to providing sufficient time for all who need to check in. It may be necessary to break into smaller groups or to set time limits on check-ins so that all have a chance to share. Some groups have members count off each week; other groups establish check-in groups that stay together for four to six weeks. Some groups forego their usual format when a member wishes to give a First Step presentation. In formal First Steps, we share with our group the behaviors and consequences which show our powerlessness over addictive sexual behavior and the unmanageability of our lives. For information about doing a First Step, see the First Step to Recovery booklet. Below are some suggested formats for meeting readings, adapted from the text Sex Addicts Anonymous. Some groups use readings from Sex Addicts Anonymous exclusively; other groups combine selected readings from the basic text with their group s traditional readings. Feel free to use whatever readings best fit your group s structure, time limits, and needs. Page 11

17 1. Serenity Prayer Optional SAA Meeting Agenda The Serenity Prayer is sometimes recited while standing in a circle holding hands, and it may be preceded or followed by a moment of silence for those who are still suffering. 2. Meeting Introduction There are many versions, and two are included in this Group Guide. 3. Readings Opening What is Sex Addicts Anonymous? Who We Are From Sex Addicts Anonymous. Our Addiction Our Program 4. Readings from Program Material One or more readings chosen from appropriate literature Sex Addicts Anonymous The Traditions Page 12

18 5. Tools of the Program One or two members share how they use a program tool and why it is important in their recovery. Here is a list of some tools that may be helpful; this list is not intended to be exhaustive. Steps Anonymity Confidentiality Abstinence Boundaries Phone List Contracts Sponsorship Literature Meetings Service Affirmations Journaling Prayer Meditation Slogans The Three Circles The Traditions 6. Business Announcements, issues, and concerns are brought before the group. Intergroup ISO reports 7. Seventh Tradition Group Inventory Twelfth-step calls Sign-up for step or topic presentations Member donations are collected. Often, the Trusted Servant chairing the meeting reads the Seventh Tradition. 8. Medallions and Anniversaries Recognition is given to members for length of abstinence from inner-circle behavior or time in the program. The ISO office has medallions available for purchase. Some groups choose to read a statement before the presentation: The taking of medallions in our group is strictly optional. Medallions are offered to encourage individuals to meet their own personal commitments. Medallions do not set individuals Page 13

19 apart as authorities; they do recognize milestones of achievement in an individual's program. 9. Meeting Focus Groups choose one or a combination of the following, as examples, for the bulk of their meeting. 10. Closing Step presentation Topic discussion First Step presentations Check-ins The closing is often done in a circle. Closing statement Closing prayer 11. Continued Fellowship Many groups enjoy conversations and informal gatherings following the meeting at local restaurants or other public locations. Consideration needs to be paid to include newcomers in such gatherings. Some groups plan retreats or all-day workshops to deepen fellowship among group members. Each group will need to make some choices about what will fit its membership. Remember that by tradition, each group is autonomous. This is one possible agenda. Page 14

20 Optional SAA Meeting Agenda 1. Opening 2. Reading of Who We Are and Our Addiction 3. Moment of Silence/Serenity Prayer 4. Introductions and Newcomer Introduction Chairperson asks all present to introduce themselves using first names only. Hi, I m and I m a sex addict. My name is and I'm a recovering sex addict. 8. Reading of Our Program 9. Reading of the Twelve Steps of SAA 10. Read and comment on one of the Traditions 11. Reading of Meeting Boundaries 12. Topic presentation, reading of SAA literature, or First Step Presentation 13. Introduction to Discussion/Sharing 14. Medallions and Anniversaries 15. Fellowship Business 16. Seventh Tradition Pass the Hat 17. Reading of How We Live 18. Reading of the Closing 19. Closing Prayer Page 15

21 Opening Hello, my name is, and I m a (recovering) sex addict. Welcome to this meeting of Sex Addicts Anonymous. Who We Are [From Sex Addicts Anonymous, pages 1-2] We are sex addicts. Our addiction nearly destroyed our lives, but we found freedom through the recovery program of Sex Addicts Anonymous. In the fellowship of SAA, we discovered that we are not alone and that meeting regularly together to share experience, strength, and hope gives us the choice to live a new life. Our addictive sexual behavior was causing pain to ourselves, our friends, and our loved ones. Our lives were out of control. We may have wanted to quit, making promises and many attempts to stop, yet we repeatedly failed to do so. For each of us, there came a moment of crisis. When we finally reached out for help, we found recovery through the program of SAA. We have found, through long and painful experience, that we are unable to achieve recovery from sexual addiction through our own efforts. Our program is based on the belief, confirmed by our experience, that a Power greater than ourselves can accomplish for us what we could not do alone. By surrendering our addiction to a Higher Power, we receive the gift of recovery, one day at a time. Sex Addicts Anonymous is a spiritual program based on the principles and traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Although we are not affiliated with AA or any other organization, we are deeply grateful to AA for making our recovery possible. Our primary purpose is to stop our addictive sexual behavior and to help others recover from sexual addiction. We find a new way of living through the SAA program, and carry our message to others seeking recovery. Membership is open to all who have a desire to stop addictive sexual behavior. There is no other requirement. Our fellowship is open to women and men, regardless of age, race, religion, ethnic background, marital status, or occupation. We welcome members of any sexual identity or orientation, whether they are gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, or transgender. In our groups, there is a collective wisdom that has grown and been handed down over the years. We learn many new solutions to old problems. Central to these are the Twelve Steps, a spiritual program of recovery. Following these steps leads to freedom from addictive sexual behaviors and to the healing of our minds, bodies, spirits, relationships, and sexuality. Page 16

22 Desperation brought us together. We found in each other what we could find nowhere else: people who knew the depth of our pain. Together we found hope and the care of a loving Higher Power. Our commitment is to help others recover from sexual addiction, just as we have been helped. What Is Sex Addicts Anonymous? Sex Addicts Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other so that they may find freedom from addictive sexual behavior and help others recover from sexual addiction. Membership is open to all who share a desire to stop addictive sexual behavior. There is no other requirement. SAA is supported through voluntary contributions from members. We are not affiliated with any other twelve-step programs, nor are we a part of any other organization. We do not support, endorse, or oppose outside causes or issues. Sex Addicts Anonymous is a spiritual program based on the principles and traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. We are grateful to AA for this gift which makes our recovery possible. Moment of Silence/Serenity Prayer Please join me in a moment of silence, followed by the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer God, grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Page 17

23 Our Addiction [From Sex Addicts Anonymous, page 3, paragraphs 1-2] Before coming to Sex Addicts Anonymous, many of us never knew that our problem had a name. All we knew was that we couldn t control our sexual behavior. For us, sex was a consuming way of life. Although the details of our stories were different, our problem was the same. We were addicted to sexual behaviors that we returned to over and over, despite the consequences. Sex addiction is a disease affecting the mind, body, and spirit. It is progressive, with the behavior and its consequences usually becoming more severe over time. We experience it as compulsion, which is an urge that is stronger than our will to resist, and as obsession, which is a mental preoccupation with sexual behavior and fantasies. In SAA, we have come to call our addictive sexual behavior acting out. Our Program [From Sex Addicts Anonymous, page 20] Attending SAA meetings starts us on a new way of life. But while the SAA fellowship supports our recovery, the actual work of recovery is described in the Twelve Steps. Meetings are forums for learning how to integrate the steps into our lives. Working the Twelve Steps leads to a spiritual transformation that results in sustainable relief from our addiction. When we start attending meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous, many of us are surprised to meet people who are enjoying life, experiencing freedom from the painful, compulsive behaviors that had brought them to SAA. Listening to other members share about their recovery, we gradually realize that in order to make the same kind of progress, we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get sexually abstinent, and to stay abstinent. We have learned from hard experience that we cannot achieve and maintain abstinence if we aren t willing to change our way of life. But if we can honestly face our problems, and are willing to change, the Twelve Steps of SAA will lead to an awakening that allows us to live a new way of life according to spiritual principles. Taking these steps allows fundamental change to occur in our lives. They are the foundation of our recovery. Page 18

24 The Twelve Steps of Sex Addicts Anonymous [From Sex Addicts Anonymous, pages 20-21] 1. We admitted we were powerless over addictive sexual behavior that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God s will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other sex addicts and to practice these principles in our lives. These steps are the heart of our program. They contain a depth that we could hardly have guessed when we started. As we work them, we experience a spiritual transformation. Over time, we establish a relationship with a Power greater than ourselves, each of us coming to an understanding of a Higher Power that is personal for us. Although the steps use the word God to indicate this Power, SAA is not affiliated with any religion, creed, or dogma. The program offers a spiritual solution to our addiction, without requiring adherence to any specific set of beliefs or practices. The path is wide enough for everyone who wishes to walk it. Page 19

Copyright 1980 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Mail address: Box 459 Grand Central Station New York, NY 10163. www.aa.

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